12 August 2008

Maori tourism finding independence in ecotourism

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This year, the New Zealand Tourism Board and Government have made it clear that conservation and sustainability are top priorities for maintaining the world-renowned New Zealand environment and natural surroundings. However, at the two-day Ecotourism NZ Conference in Greymouth starting today, issues of history and the preservation of indigenous culture will become a new tourism industry focus.

Chairman of Ecotourism NZ Brian MacKenzie said respect for indigenous communities is one of the priorities of ecotourism, and research into Maori culture and its relationship with tourism will be presented at the conference this week.  The government funded a study to find out what visitors want from a cultural experience and how Maori businesses can maximise on that.

The four-year study involved surveys and interviews of tourists and found that the Maori culture is an untapped resource that is full of business opportunities.  It also highlighted the fact that Maori tourism is a market that should be developed by indigenous people themselves, with the support of the government and private sector.

"New Zealand will always be a place to go for natural beauty; if we can tap into that and add a Maori element to what we're doing it will deepen people's experience here," said Chrys Horn of Landcare Research, head of the research team.

In their tourism marketing campaigns, New Zealand and Australia are targeting overseas tourists which they call "experience seekers" – tourists who are looking to experience a culture rather than just seeing it on a whirlwind tour.  In New Zealand, tourists from countries who are part of the visa waiver agreement with New Zealand can now holiday in the country for up to three months without having to apply for a tourist visa, while all others can apply for a New Zealand visitors visa which remains valid for up to nine months.

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people emigrate to New Zealand.

Article by Jessica Bird, New Zealand Visa Bureau.

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